Scientific Literature in Psychology.

Scientific Literature in Psychology

Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is 1) to develop competence in locating and identifying scientific psychological literature, 2) to develop competence in understanding scientific psychological literature, and 3) to gain additional experience with and feedback on academic writing. Throughout this class, we will emphasize the scientific underpinnings of psychology. This assignment provides an opportunity to familiarize oneself with the literature that forms the basis of psychological science.

The Task:

Your task is to locate, identify, and summarize a primary source article in the field of psychology.

What is a primary source article?

Primary source articles contain full research reports, including all of the details necessary to duplicate a study. A primary source article usually contains the following sections: an abstract that summarizes the paper, an introduction that contains the rationale for the study and the hypotheses or research questions, a method section that describes in detail the participants in the study and the procedure, stimuli, and equipment used in the study, a results section that describes what was found and statistical analyses that were performed, a discussion section that explores the implications of the findings, and a references section that lists the literature cited throughout the paper. Primary source articles are most often found in scientific journals.

For this assignment, please use only those primary source articles that provide statistical analysis of data in addition to any descriptive statistics (i.e., in addition to such information as mean and median scores, range of scores, percent of participants who reported a given score, etc.). Those articles that do not incorporate statistical analyses in addition to or in lieu of descriptive statistics (e.g., most case reports) are unacceptable. Meta-analyses (i.e., studies that statistically summarize primary source articles) and other review-type articles are also unacceptable for this assignment. If you would like to confirm that your article is appropriate for the assignment (and I strongly suggest you do confirm this), please email the professor a pdf of the entire article for her review. Papers based on articles inappropriate for this assignment will earn a 0.

How do I locate a primary source article?

Primary source articles can be most easily located using the PsycINFO database. This database, with over 1.7 million records, is the comprehensive international database of psychology. It covers the academic, research, and practice literature in psychology that is published in peer-reviewed journals, books, book chapters, research reports, dissertations, and literature reviews. These published works come from over 45 countries and are written in more than 30 languages. They cover psychology and psychological aspects of related disciplines including medicine, psychiatry, nursing, sociology, education, pharmacology, physiology, linguistics, anthropology, business, law, criminology, and organizational behavior. During Topic 1, you will learn to work with PsycINFO.

What do I write?

After carefully reading your article, compose an approximately three-page write-up containing the following information:

What the general topic of the article is (this is usually found in the Introduction).
What the hypothesis of the researchers was (i.e., what they predicted they would find).
What methods were used to test the hypothesis (see the Method section).
What was found (see the Results and Discussion sections).
What you think about the article. For example, did the research question seem important? Why or why not? Are there additional questions that you think the researchers should have examined? What are these? Why do you think these additional questions are important?

When composing your write-up, be sure to put everything in your own words. Do not plagiarize (i.e., use another’s words/ sentence structure as your own) or quote.

Please note that you may need to read your article more than once and refer to your textbook or other sources in order to get a good understanding of what was done. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every detail- reading primary sources in psychology is challenging, and many articles use jargon and specialized statistics that we will not cover in class. Feel free to consult with Dr. Scher as often as needed to get a good general understanding of your article.

How should I format the paper?

The paper should be 3 pages long. Margins should be one inch on all sides. Text should be 10-point, Verdana font. All text should be double-spaced. Use one or two spaces after each sentence, and be consistent throughout the paper. You should put your full name in a header in the upper right corner of the page, not in the body of the paper. The title of your paper should be “Scientific Literature in Psychology”; no other title is acceptable. At the end of your paper, you should provide a reference for your article in accord with American Psychological Association (APA) style. The form of APA citation is as follows:

Author last name, Author initials, Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (publication year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.

This citation will not be included in your page count.

What should I turn in?

You should turn in both your write-up and the entire article that you summarized. Both of these items can be uploaded to the course website using the appropriate links.


This assignment is worth a maximum of 20 points. You will be graded on both the content and the clarity of your writing, as well as the formatting of the paper.

Points will be earned as follows:

Formatting: 2 points

Grammar, spelling, and clarity: 5 points

Identification of the article’s general topic and the hypothesis of the researchers: 3 points

Summary of the method and findings: 5 points

Your impressions of the study: 5 points

An A-type paper will be formatted exactly as described above. The paper will be easy for the reader to follow, and will contain no more than a single spelling or grammar error. The article’s general topic and the hypothesis of the researchers are accurately identified and described. Method and findings are accurately summarized. Impressions are logical and well-supported.

A B-type paper will have all the features of an A-type paper, although there may be an error in formatting and more than one error in grammar or spelling. Nonetheless, formatting, grammar, and spelling errors do not detract from the clarity of the paper.

A C-type paper may have formatting, grammar, or spelling errors that slightly detract from the clarity of the paper. The article’s general topic and the hypothesis of the researchers are accurately identified and described. Summary of the method and findings may contain a minor inaccuracy (e.g., the wrong number of participants is listed). Impressions may be only partially supported.

A D-type paper may have formatting, grammar, or spelling errors that substantially detract from the clarity of the paper. The article’s general topic and the hypothesis of the researchers may contain a minor inaccuracy. Summary of the method and findings may contain more than one minor inaccuracy. Impressions may be only partially supported.

An F-type paper resembles a D-type paper. The method or findings may contain a major inaccuracy (e.g., stating that women are less depressed than men, when the finding is that men are less depressed than women). One or more areas of the paper may be omitted.


If you cheat (this includes plagiarism), you will earn an F grade in the class and you will be referred to the Vice President for Student Affairs for possible further disciplinary action (e.g., expulsion, suspension, probation).

An Additional Note:

One important way of improving one’s writing is to receive and incorporate feedback. Thus, students have the opportunity to receive feedback on drafts of their papers, and to incorporate such feedback into their final papers. In order to receive feedback, please email drafts of your papers and articles to Dr. Scher no later than 10:00 am on Wednesday, June 18. Please note that very general feedback can be provided for rough drafts, whereas very specific feedback can be provided for polished drafts.

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